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Thursday, July 11, 2013

GITMO Genital Searches to Cease

Royce Lamberth of the U.S. District Court in Washington issued an order today barring the use of invasive genital and anus searches on Guantanamo Bay Prisoners on their way to speak with their lawyers. In his judgment today, he wrote, “the choice between submitting to a search procedure that is religiously and culturally abhorrent or forgoing counsel effectively presents no choice for devout Muslims like the petitioners.”

Lamberth, an appointee of Ronald Regan, cast aside claims by Guantanamo’s commander Colonel John Bogdan that the searches were in response a the death of Adnan Latif. The judge found such a connection was so “remote as to render the policy arbitrary or irrational.” Lamberth also noted that Latif died in September 2012, yet the new searches were not fully implemented until last month. “To the Court’s view, Col. Bogdan’s swiftness in implementing the new searches in May 2013 shows that linking the new searches to the death of Latif and the subsequent investigation was merely an afterthought.”

Apart from genital searches, Lamberth also found fault in several other government procedures. Currently the U.S. government requires detainees to lay down strapped into the back of a low ceiling van. Today’s judgement ordered the military to resume using older vans in which inmates could sit up during transport. Lamerth also found that the military should allow detainees who are medically unable to travel to meet with their lawyers at the housing camp.

Exoplanets Might Be Motes and Hot Air

It was popularly held that rings of dust that surround some stars were the gravitational effects of as yet unseen planets, but an article published by Wladimir Lyra and Marc Kuchner, might put that theory to rest. Many nearby stars are surrounded by debris, which orbits the star at a distance roughly equal to Pluto’s orbit around Sol. Often in these debris fields, astronomers have found dust rings with crisp edges and lopsided orbits. Lyra says, “It’s often easy to see something you cannot explain, and then blame it on something you cannot see.” Rather than explain such formations as undiscovered planets, Lyra ran models which suggested that gas in the debris field caused well-defined dust rings with offset orbital paths, not unlike those near Fomalhaut.

Such findings call the number of known exoplanets into question, Alexis Brandeker laments, “Now, we cannot be sure that an anomalous ring is due to a planet, we know that there are plenty of planets out there, it’s just that now we can’t say that they’re definitively present in these particular systems.”

Rebel Siege on Aleppo

Syrian rebels in the still hotly contested city of Aleppo have constricted the flow of goods into sections of the city held by government forces, specifically seeking to deny food to forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad that would ordinarily be used to break Ramadan fasting each night. Earlier this week, a protest in the Bustan al-Qasr neighborhood broke out over the rebel tactic. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported “intense food shortages” in government-held areas, “compounded by the skyrocketing prices of whatever supplies can be found.”

Rebels are at pains to stress that the aim of the blockade is to deny supplies to government troops, while also encouraging a civilian evacuation of the areas around government positions so that a morally defensible ground assault might proceed. Currently roughly 2 million Syrians live in and around the government controlled sections of Aleppo.

SSC surrenders Libyan Interior Ministry

Government workers have re-entered the interior ministry of Libya after a weeklong occupation by an armed force, known as the Supreme Security Committee (SSC). The SSC militia was formed in 2011 as part of a well-armed cadre of groups committed to the toppling of Muammar Gaddaf. Since then the SSC has suggested its needs and opinions have been neglected in the race to solidify the Libyan security apparatus. According to an interior ministry official, “The government had formed a ministerial committee to solve the crisis and it succeeded” in encouraging the militia to decamp from the ministry grounds. The official said, “We don’t know what agreement was reached but right now workers are checking the building and it is in good condition.”
Yesterday during the ministry’s occupation, Salah al-Marghani, Libyan minister of justice, declared that his government will “put in place mechanisms to disband armed groups, with no differentiation, no matter who they are or where they are from.” While the interim government accepted, and indeed relied upon, the assistance of such groups during the revolution, al-Marghani said, “now is the time for Libyans to know the future of Libya will not be achieved with the existence of such groups.” Adding, “At the end there will be only a national army and police.”

A Funeral on the Anniversary of the Srebrenica Massacre

Scores of thousands have gathered in Bosnia for the funeral of 409 newly identified victims of the Srebrenica massacre. Today’s funeral comes on the 18th anniversary of a crime the U.N. Secretary-General once called “the worst on European soil since the Second World War. More than 8,000 Bosniaks in the nominal U.N. safe-area Srebrenica were killed by members of the Army of the Rebulika Srpska, despite the presence of the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR).

Under the orders of Ratko Mladic, Serbian forces rounded up non-Serbians, killed them, and buried them with bulldozers in over 300 mass graves. Many tens of thousands of others were forcibly relocated. Many victims were never found, other remains have yet to be identified, but the Potocari Memorial Center has identified nearly 10,000 vicitms. Among today’s reburied were 44 boys, aged between 14 and 18, and a baby girl who was born during the Serbian army’s capture of Srebrenica.

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